The sheer diversity of popular magic connected with sacred wells and springs is remarkable. Inseparable from the ancient cults of saints and spirits of place, the natural springs and wellheads of the British Isles have come to be famed loci of healing, divination, and spiritual revelation. Some, possessing long traditions of votive and sacrificial offerings, have assumed powers of spirit-guardianship, or, indeed, divinities of water. Other such wells are the repositories of eldritch lore connected with the cult of the skull and the Holy Head. Additionally, bodies of magical practice have developed around some wells, serving a variety of magical purposes, including blessings and curses, healings and the dispensation of prophetic power. In almost every case, there is a specific magical relation between the waters as a medium of spirit, and the surrounding features of the land.
Wisht Waters is the fifth book in the continuing Three Hands Press Occult Monographs series, and the first book for Three Hands Press by Gemma Gary. It examines both the lore of holy wells as well as their associated cultic activities, whether religious or earthed in the practical magic of folk-sorcery. While examining many a well in Britain and Ireland, much of the text focuses on the lore in the West Country and Cornwall.
Curse tablets, defixiones, were formed from sheets of lead, inscribed with the ill intent of the curse, and the name of the victim. The tablet would often be rolled, or folded, before being stuck through with a nail; a magical act of defigo; ‘pinning down’ or ‘fixing’ one’s will and intent upon the target of one’s work. Such an act is not isolated to malefic working, and is cognate with the ‘creative act’ and fertility; giving life unto the magician’s will. In curse magic however the act embodies the triune powers of torment, fixing and intent-enlivenment. The completed defixio was then, in further conjuration of the Underworld virtues and dark intent upon the victim, buried in the ground, or dropped into the chthonic waters of a well.